Silver lining to rainclouds

Last updated 12:58 17/03/2014
 Meg Selby,
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

PATH BLOCKED: A tree fell onto a pathway at Queen’s Gardens during the storm.

 Meg Selby,
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
READY: Sandbags outside Saxton Stadium.

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The weekend's wild weather has turned into a drought breaker with the cancellation of water restrictions that were due to be stepped up today.

Tasman District Council's Dry Weather Taskforce convenor Dennis Bush-King today lifted all water restrictions in rural and urban areas.

He said that the 70 to 90mm of rain has boosted the Waimea River to levels which should lastuntil the end of the irrigation season. The Upper Motueka area also benefited from over 50mm of rain so restrictions were no longer required. The highest rainfall was recorded at Canaan Downs on Takaka Hill with over 300mm.

"Most rivers have had a nice flush so hopefully this rain event will be seen as the drought breaker here in Tasman."

The fallout from tropical cyclone Lusi brought strong wind and rain to the region but little damage

The sight of an Air New Zealand plane coming sideways into Nelson in strong winds last night had a nearby resident on tenterhooks.

"I've lived here for eight years and see the planes every day and I've never seen anything like it," said Steve Marrison, who watched from Monaco View, Stoke at 6.30pm.

"It was blowing a gale out there. The Air NZ plane was off course and he was really fighting to gain control judging by the violent manoeuvring. The passengers must have been worried, my adrenalin was pumping."

An Air New Zealand spokesman said weather conditions at Nelson Airport had remained suitable for safe and normal operations to continue throughout yesterday. Fifty services to and from Nelson departed with no weather-related cancellations.

Winds swung around from all directions before they began blowing from the northern quadrant around noon yesterday, peaking at gusts from the northeast of up to 74kmh recorded at Nelson Airport around 6pm last night, MetService New Zealand data shows.

The gusts also brought down trees, including a massive old tree on the Branford Park side of the Centre of New Zealand track which members of the public noted on Saturday evening.

Electricity was cut in Hope to 1400 properties at 4pm yesterday when a tree was blown over powerlines.

Nelson Weather Service said peak gusts at Farewell Spit reached 89kmh around 5pm from the north. MetService figures show similar wind strength around Motueka, where gusts reached 89kmh between 5pm and 7pm last night.

Nelson's heavy rain eased at 8.40pm yesterday after a good soaking with between 77mm in the Nelson city area, and 88mm about upland Stoke, Nelson Weather Service reported today. Most of the heaviest rain fell with the passage of the fading tropical low between 5pm and 8.30pm, with the heaviest burst in the hour to 8pm when 17.4mm of rain fell.

The service said other rainfall of note was 133mm at Hira, 155mm at the Brook, and 72mm at the Moutere.

Residents in and around Murchison reported less dramatic weather effects, but the Buller River swelled rapidly to flows of 17 cumecs to 170 cumecs at the peak of last night's weather.

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The new Emergency Management headquarters in Richmond was used for the first time at the weekend while staff monitored the storm's effects.

A spokeswoman, Angela Ricker, described it as a heavy weather weekend. "The short of it is, the event panned out much as predicted, moderate rain around Nelson and Richmond, with more intense falls in the hills behind Motueka and Takaka." "

Golden Bay got off lightly over the weekend due to low rivers and thirsty ground.

Tasman District Council spokesperson Chris Choat said the council kept an eye on three rivers - the Anatoki, the Wainaru and the Riwaka. The Anatoki reached flood levels then quickly subsided.

"In Golden Bay there was surface flooding but nothing serious. Essentially we got off extremely lightly," he said.

The region's orchards and vineyards, which have just begun their harvest, appear to have escaped any major storm damage.

Steve Moriarty, the operations manager at Enza Orchards in Riwaka, one of the region's largest, said the storm was a "non-event".

"It was very nice for us. It was getting bloody dry and it was nice to get it on a Sunday and to get back into [picking] today. There's a bit of fruit on the ground but that's life. It was nothing serious."

Winemaker Hermann Seifried, who owns Appleby's Seifried Estate, said the short, sharp burst of rain was more than he had expected.

He said it was better for his grapes to have the 90mm overnight rather than spread out across the week.

"The fruit is in pretty good nick."

HOW MUCH?

Strongest wind: 89kmh Farewell Spit and Motueka, 5pm yesterday.

Heaviest rain: 155mm at the Brook yesterday; 17.4mm in Nelson city between 7pm and 8pm last night. -

- Nelson

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